Paint to Power – Lets Twist Again – by James Griffin

Altering Commander: The Sissay Project by James Griffin


When one finds oneself collecting power nine like I am, it apparently doesn’t take too long before One begins to wonder what to do with it. Well, eating it and being imbued by it’s power is one option, but others apparently don’t think this is cool, so another plan is needed. There would appear to be two options. The first would be to make a cube with the sweetest cards of all in it. I have no experience of this and I have no idea where to start. That doesn’t have to stop me of course, but the thing that’s turning me off the idea is that I will be most unlikely to be able to play more than one or two of them at once, and that seems like a shame at least initially. The other option then is to play them in a vintage deck.  My capers as I begin to explore the wonderful world of vintage will be the subject of a future article.  Allow me to offer a sneak peek however, the decks I want to play only play eight of the power nine. I know, right? So close! That means I have to find something else to do with poor ol’ Timetwister. Poor ol’ cast me and win the game. Now what sort of deck could I put this guy in?

Wouldn’t you know it, ‘twister is the only legal power nine card in Commander.

Oh look, I have one.  Time to have some fun!  Lets build the deck.

A commander. I always lean towards combo and anything that plays a toolbox, and in this case it needs to be blue. I fancy building a mono coloured deck because I find them generally more fun to play.  The other reason is that my Sisay deck requires me to fix my mana in a similar way to Valakut in standard, where all my spells are WW and all my mana needs to be in the form of forests. Therefore it doesn’t take long to settle on Arcum Dagsson. Let’s meet him:

Cool! He’ll do. That’s two cards down and only a few left to go.  Let’s get thinking about synergy.  I think I need a few really awesome things to go and get with Arcum, I’m pretty sure that if I’m not winning the game with activations of Arcum, I’m doing something wrong, so what are the sickest finisher targets? Welcome to the fold Mindslaver (for multiplayer only), the ultimate troll.

Speaking of trolls, gotta hate on others, step up to the mark Winter Orb. We’ll need a bunch of things that enable me to work with the little pain in the mana, so sol ring (and Sol Ring #2, Trinket Mage), Grim Monolith, Mana Vault, Mana Crypt[card], [card]Mox Opal, Mox Diamond, Thousand Year Elixir and any land which generates me more than one mana in a turn can come too.


I like me some way to lock the game out if I want to finish things quickly, so Mycosynth Lattice, Nevinyrral’s Disk, and Darksteel Forge together make the cut.  Yep, that seems pretty brutal – I hear it’s good to have permenants when your opponent doesn’t.


Because this isn’t only a combo deck, I’ll be wanting something else to win with, and with blue’s card draw, I should be able to get these guys pretty frequently and it gives me a way of winning if Arcum is dealt with (and he will be sometimes I’m sure). Memnarch, Sundering Titan, March of the Machines, and Karn, the Silver Golem should do the trick.



There seems to be one category of cards that really work well in this deck. I need anything that I can sac to Arcum, and I need enough of them so that there will likely always be at least one in play. They may not be Commander all stars, but anything that gives me value of some kind that is less mana than Arcum can be considered. The main contenders are Silver Myr, Alloy Myr, Palladium Myr, Plague Myr, Millikin, Manakin, Metalworker, Copper Gnomes, Myr Retriever, Blinkmoth Nexus, Mishra’s Factory and Inkmoth Nexus all generate mana, and Ornithopter and Memnite are attractive in so far as they are free.  Tolaria West can go and get some of them, as can Trinket Mage (sweet synergy).


No blue deck would be complete without a counter suite, and especially with this combo style build where if that doesnt work I’ll likely be left with a bunch of really bad mana Myr in hand and not much else. I’ll include the best ones I reckon, so that will be Hinder, Force of Will, Mana Drain, Spell Pierce, Manaleak, Cryptic Command, Stoic Rebuttal and new kids on the block, the absolutely awesome commander cards, Spell Crumple and Flusterstorm.


Now I have some protection, I could do with some removal and protection from other usual Commander threats such as Stone Rain effects, theft and graveyard recursion. Blue is difficult in this respect, however there are a few utility spells which give me some options:  Crucible of Worlds, Pongify, Hurkyll’s Recall, Duplicant, Vedalken Shackles, Guilded Drake, Relic of Progenitus, Tangle Wire, Wasteland, Strip Mine, Rishdan Port and Karn in his plainswalker form should hit the spot.


To keep the consistency, there will be some card draw needed.  So, to go along with Mr ‘Twister, Brainstorm, Thirst for Knowledge, Time Spiral, Memory Jar, Sensei’s Divining Top, Fact or Fiction, baby Jace, pubescent Jace, and daddy Jace, blue Tezz, Time Warp (draws a card and gives you some extra main phases to boot!) and Time Reversal should do the trick.


Is that about 100 cards? Yep I reckon so. With a few extras that you could reasonably expect to see such as Voltaic Key, Expedition Map, Mystical Tutor, Fabricate, Isochron Scepter, Lightning Greaves, Minamo at Water’s Edge, and Academy Ruins, my list is complete.


…Maybe 10 weeks later…

I have most of the cards I need for this deck now, I can’t wait to get out there and give it the ol’ college try. While I’m waiting for that opportunity however, I think it’s time to paint something to go in the deck. Given that it exists to showcase Timetwister, it only makes sense that the rest of the deck is similarly imbued with awesomeness. With that in mind I’ve been collecting the cards for the deck in foil wherever I’ve been able to find them.  I only have a few left which are non foil, mainly the ones that cost a few pennies plain, but ten or twenty quid in foil. there are also other cards which don’t come in foil, and where I haven’t been able to find cool other languages or editions to play with.  I think the only recourse is to do some alterations with these ones so that they don’t feel left out.  I have a hankering to work on the only two non foil only cards that are in the new card frame, the commander cards Flusterstorm and Spell Crumple.


Flusterstorm is the one I’ll feature for the article, this card is an absolute beating, particularly in multiplayer. I’m not up for simply extending this one, it needs to keep it’s border to play well in the context of a deck that isn’t all alters and still look in place.  For that reason, whatever else I do, I’ll keep the black border. I also need the card name and therefore I might as well keep the mana cost for good measure. Thats it though, I love the imagery of a windy rainy counter spell, and therefore this seems like a good opportunity to have a go at something I’ve wanted to try for a while,  imitating one of my favourite styles of art, the Edo period:


I’m out of my comfort zone here, trying to swim with these greats, but that doesn’t have to stop me from attempting such things, so I kick off by (gulp) erasing everything but the name from this twenty dollar note proxy.

No turning back now! The Edo period was a time when print making was first becoming available to the not-quite-so-rich in the orient, and as so you get these wonderful prints made from wooden block carvings. They are loose on the detail and often have some dodgy colouring to match due to the print making process. I’m not looking to imitate it exactly or I’d be learning to make wood carvings at this point, but I do hope to match the feeling of one of the works of Hiroshige or Hokusai. The background comes first, and I get some of the Gradients sorted. I haven’t tried to be too precise with the brush strokes or anything to get into the spirit of the thing.

The next stage is to smooth the background out a little with some White paint shot through an airbrush. This creates a pleasant mix of hand worked and manufactured Gradient. Then I begin to map out the focus of the piece a tree blowing in the wind.

This tree gets some blocking in.

And some re outlining.

Then I forget to take more pictures for a while. Yeah not good I know! The tree got it’s boughs in place, with little leaves painted on with tiny dots. The texture of the reeds and grasses goes on next in dark brown and then with black accents. I get the outline of some houses and boats into the background to break up the horizon line. Then I get the outline of the wharf in place before I remember to pick up my camera again.

I am using a lot of water in my paints here to give the feel of a watercolour like finish, and this is warping the card which makes it a pain to work on. There is some detail to work on and in the foreground the reeds and grasses are giving the piece some perspective. The wooden outlines of the wharf are a pain, but they also add perspective.

Following a bunch of little changes and some more texture into the water, I use a ruler to add the outline of the black border back to the card with a .5mm fine liner. Finally, I use an airbrush and a mask to shoot black onto the outside of the border. The card is essentially finished at this point, and it goes straight into a sleeve and into a binder in order to get the card flat again, and the binder goes under a heavy book. Over night the card gets flat again, and it’s finished.


Or is it? The original had a guy losing his hat in the wind, but I don’t have a good enough picture of him to be able to copy it, and the plan wasn’t to copy it totally anyway. As such I’m open to ideas as to what could go on the wharf instead. Maybe a stack of crates or something? Do let me know what you think should be there on the comments or on Facebook. While you’re at it, if you could click ‘like’ on Facebook, apparently that’s how we’re judging the quality of articles now, so yeah, if you like it, like it!

Until next time,

James Griffin

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